How to Deal with Anonymous Critics in Your Church… Yuck! (Guest Blogger Don Ross)

I’ve asked Don Ross – Advanced Coaching Alum, Renegade Pastor and Lead Pastor of Creekside Church in the Seattle, Washington Area – to share today about an issue that plagues a lot of pastors.

Hope you find this helpful:

Do you have anonymous critics in the church you lead?  We all do. 

I had a person send me an anonymous note telling me I was preaching false doctrine, another said the devil was using me, another said I was unfit to be in the ministry.  Still another said I was offensive during a sermon and expected a public apology this coming Sunday.

You know the people I mean.  They send you a note in the mail or write something on the communication card and drop it in the offering with no name.  Then you are supposed to act on it somehow, either a public statement or some shift in policy.

The problem is if we acknowledged this note publicly, we encouraged more such notes.  If we don’t deal with it, we wrestle with internal guilt because we seem to not really be caring about the sheep.

Jesus had a similar problem, so I took a cue on how to handle it.

In Matthew 21:23-27, Jesus had his authority questioned, so he returns a question for a question, saying, “You answer mine, I’ll answer yours.”  Of course those trying to trap Jesus didn’t and couldn’t answer Jesus without also trapping themselves.  So Jesus refused to answer their question.  My guess is Jesus didn’t feel guilty either.

From Jesus’ modeling I took away that I don’t have to answer every question, deal with every situation or even respond at all.  So I don’t.  I applied Jesus principle of non-response to my anonymous critics.  I ignore them all.

The problem is that their so-called “legitimate criticism” has come by an “illegitimate means”.  If someone doesn’t have the courage to stand by their observations in a letter or note by telling me their name so I can respond, they don’t deserve a response.

I will sincerely receive and evaluate all sincerely sent criticisms and observations.

I have no problem with that, and I need to have an open heart and humble mind to embrace what I may not see.  All leaders should.  But timid, weak people who take cheap, anonymous shots, should themselves be… well I can’t go there.

My team members who sort the cards turned in on Sunday are instructed to disregard all cards without names.  Period.  I have no respect for cheap guerrilla tactics designed to hold leaders hostage emotionally.  Believe me, I could use much stronger language here.

If I receive a letter in the mail, I open it, even if it doesn’t have a return address, but if there is no signature, it is discarded before any contents are read.  This has served me well.

In addition to this, I regularly tell me people from the stage that I want to hear from them, opinions, criticism, praise reports, anything at all, but they need to let me know who they are.

I tell them at the same time, “If you send me a note or a Sunday Card and it is unsigned, it is discarded.  So have the courage and integrity to give us your name before you give us your opinion.

Here’s the bottom line… no input from the critic, no response from me, just like Jesus.

For information on the Turn-Around Church Coaching Network, see www.turnaroundchurch.org

Posted On: February 01, 2013
Posted as: Leadership
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